A women sat down holding a baby

How best to diet while breastfeeding

It’s natural for new mothers to want to get back to their pre-baby weight as soon as possible once they’ve given birth. A healthy diet is a good way of getting started, but there are a few points to keep in mind when planning to diet while breastfeeding.

You can cut calories a bit, but not too much


Cutting calories while breastfeeding can be a tricky business. This is because your body consumes a certain number of calories to produce milk. For that reason, it’s important to be careful not to reduce your calorie intake too sharply if you are planning to diet.

One 1998 study[1] found that a short-term energy deficit of 35% of the mother’s total calorie intake (counting energy burned through both diet and exercise) had no negative effect on the ability of the mother to breastfeed, or the quality of her milk.

Any kind of extreme low-calorie crash diet is likely to have a negative effect and should be avoided.

Wait a couple of months before starting your diet


As much as you may be keen to begin shedding the pounds immediately, it’s a good idea to wait until you’ve been breastfeeding for at least two months before adopting a specific diet plan.

This way, you allow your body to develop a healthy milk supply which will then be more resilient to any later changes you might make to your lifestyle.

Plus, after all, you can probably expect to lose some weight during those first couple of months just due to the calories you’ll burn by breastfeeding.

Get the essential nutrients

Whichever diet plan you choose, it’s important that you top up on the essential nutrients especially if you are breastfeeding. While you don’t need to follow a perfect diet while breastfeeding, research[2] [3] shows that a deficiency in certain nutrients like vitamin B12 and iodine is likely to carry over to a nutrient deficiency in your baby.

For the most part, poor nutrient intake will negatively affect you and your own health rather than that of your baby. Be sure to eat plenty of nutrient rich foods such as leafy greens, and take vitamin supplements if necessary.

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[1] http://jn.nutrition.org/content/128/2/386S.full [2] http://www.ijss-sn.com/uploads/2/0/1/5/20153321/ijss_july-19.pdf [3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19178515
Breastfeeding